The shocking disappearance of 22-year-old Gabby Petito during a cross country road trip with her fiancé, who was named as a person of interest Wednesday and so far has refused to cooperate with investigators, strikes an eerie resemblance to the early stages of other missing women cases over the years whose significant others were eventually implicated or ultimately charged with their murder.
Brian Laundrie, 23, has not been charged with a crime, but police in his hometown of North Port, Florida, said they are now considering him a person of interest as a nationwide manhunt ensures for his missing fiancee. The couple was traveling cross-country in their Ford Transit van and sharing photos and videos of their trip to social media. Brian Laundrie returned to North Port on Sept. 1 – ten days before Gabby’s mother, who resides in Suffolk County, N.Y., reported her missing on Sept. 11. Gabby’s family hadn’t been able to get in touch with her since the last week of August.
Searches are underway in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, where Gabby was last seen. Utah authorities are also investigating after Moab police revealed to Fox News that officers responded to an incident involving the couple roughly two weeks before – but no charges were pressed. The couple had also posted pictures from Arches National Park, just north of Moab. FBI was also analyzing the couple’s van seized in Florida.
An attorney representing Gabby’s mother on Wednesday slammed Brian for sitting in the comfort of his home, as he refuses to speak to investigators or provide information regarding when he last saw Gabby. As the early stages of the case are underway, we take a look back on how other boyfriends, fiances and husbands behaved when their significant others first went missing in high profile cases that also captivated the nation.
Larry Millete —
Larry Millete is a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife, Maya Millete, the mother of the couple’s three children, who vanished from their Chula Vista, California home nine months ago.
Maya’s parents, Pablito and Noemi Tabalanza, are reportedly sparring in court with Larry, alleging that he’s kept their three grandchildren from them since Maya’s disappearance in January. Larry wasn’t named a person of interest until July 22. He was served with a gun violence restraining order and had more than a dozen guns seized from his home on May 7. Multiple other search warrants have also been carried out at the home, most recently on July 1 when officers towed away Maya’s black Jeep.
Family, friends and community members have continued periodic searches for Maya. A source previously told Fox News that Larry suspected Maya of having a boyfriend, and that he frequently discussed paying a hitman $20,000 to kill his missing wife’s alleged lover.
Barry Morphew –
Barry Morphew is charged with the murder of his wife, Suzanne Morphew, whose body still hasn’t been found since her disappearance on Mother’s Day 2020. Her mountain bike was recovered by investigators, and during preliminary hearings that began last month, prosecutors showed body camera footage of Barry entering the house in the mountains of southern Colorado for the first time since his wife was reported missing by a neighbor.
Chaffee County Undersheriff Andy Rohrich testified that Barry acted oddly and did not try to look around for Suzanne. Investigators photographed injuries on Barry Morphew’s hands and scratches on his left arm that appeared to be caused by fingernails. An unused .22-caliber round was found next to the couple’s bed, and a tranquilizer gun and accessories were also found in the couple’s home.
Though text messages showed that Suzanne repeatedly accused Barry of cheating, investigators determined she was the one having an extramarital affair for two years with a man named Jeff Libler, whom she had attended high school with in Indiana. He was cleared by law enforcement and was not in or around Colorado at the time Suzanne went missing.
Chad Daybell –
The children of Lori Vallow, a so-called cult mom who espoused bizarre doomsday beliefs, were found buried in the backyard of her fifth husband, Chad Daybell, in Rexburg, Idaho following a months-long nationwide search for Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17. In a bizarre twist to the case, Chad Daybell is also charged with the murder of his wife, Tammy Daybell, who mysteriously died just days before Chad flew off to Hawaii and married Lori. Lori has also been indicted in connection with the 2019 killing of her fourth husband, Charles Vallow.
Scott Peterson –
Scott Peterson is serving a life sentence for the 2002 murder of his pregnant wife Laci and their unborn son Conner. He appeared in court in California last month amid his push for a new trial amid allegations of prior juror misconduct, as defense argues, given the pre-trial publicity, one of the jurors failed to disclose her own history of domestic abuse while pregnant in order to get on the jury to convict him.
Investigators said Scott Peterson dumped his wife’s body from his fishing boat into the San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve in 2002. The bodies of Laci Peterson and Conner surfaced months later around the same area. In trial, prosecutors pointed to Scott Peterson’s affair with massage therapist Amber Frey, who testified she did not know he was married.
Meanwhile, his sister-in-law, Janey Peterson, who is married to Scott’s older brother, Joe Peterson, and has known Scott Peterson since he was 13, has repeatedly maintained that he is innocent. She has made public television appearances promoting her theory that burglars kidnapped Laci Peterson while she was out walking the dog and framed Scott.
Chris Watts –
On Aug. 13, 2018, Watts strangled his wife Shanann Watts, who was 15 weeks pregnant, in their Colorado home. He then took the body and his daughters – Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, – to a job site at the oil company he worked for. Prosecutors said Watts smothered his daughters after burying his wife.
Authorities believe he committed the murders because he was having an affair with a woman named Nichol Kessinger, who told investigators that when she met him he’d told her he was already separated from Shanann. Watts said he strangled his wife in their bed after he told her their marriage was over and she responded by saying he would never see their children again.
Kessinger wound up going to police and telling them Watts had lied to her about his marital status and could likely have been lying to police about his family’s whereabouts. When investigators examined her devices, they found she’d Googled, “Did people hate Amber Frey?”
Tom Sharkey –
Tom Sharkey was married to 26-year-old social media influencer Alexis Sharkey, whose naked body was found on the side of a desolate road in west Houston by a sanitation worker the weekend after Thanksgiving, 2020. An autopsy later showed she had been strangled to death.
Her husband has never been charged with a crime, and no one has been arrested in connection to Sharkey’s murder. Sharkey’s mother, Stacey Robinaul, told news outlets that Tom initially seemed cooperative of having Alexis’ body transported from Texas to her native Pennsylvania, but then stopped communicating with her. The medical examiner eventually intervened to change Alexis’ next of kin from her husband to her mother, so that the woman could give her daughter a proper funeral.
Tom told news outlets following his wife’s death that they were very much in love.
“She wasn’t happy. She was stressed. I would cuddle her to try to make her strong. She was an amazing woman…she really was,” he said of Alexis, who had over 200,000 followers on social media and regularly shared content about hair care and beauty. “There’s always other sides to everything. I was the one holding her, cuddling her, and building her back up.”
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That narrative deviated from the narrative of Alexis’ friend, Tanya Ricardo, who told outlets the couple were headed for divorce. She claimed Alexis, decades younger than her 49-year-old husband, had confided in her that she wanted out of her marriage.
“I don’t need to set the record straight,” Tom said, before stepping away from media interviews. “I’ll let it play out the way it is. I know what my life was with my wife.” The Houston Police Department and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office still investigate.
Fox News’ Mike Ruiz, Audrey Conklin, Paul Best and David Aaro contributed to this report.